June is Pride month, an important time of the year to promote the dignity, equality and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as a social group.
It is also a time when LGBTQI allies, like me, need to be extra noisy about why this still matters, and how you can help make a change.
It is tempting to think of LGBTQI issues as a thing of the past. The data tells a different story. 72 countries around the world still criminalise same-sex relationships, with eight still carrying the death sentence. Over a quarter of the world’s population (29%) believes that people in same-sex relationships should be charged as criminals.
In the UK the story is similarly bleak, with homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, including stalking, harassment and violent assault, doubling in England and Wales between 2014 and 2019.
For LGBTQI staff in MoJ, the champions, networks and allies work hard to protect our colleagues and to champion the right to equality, fair treatment, and for everyone to be able to be themselves at work.
For people who would like to be more active supporters of LGBTQI rights, please remember that you don’t need to pass an exam to become an ally, you just need to believe in fairness and equality. Here are a few things you can do to help and what I feel is important for me to lead by example and encourage for my team in MoJ Digital and Technology:
- Actively promote an inclusive culture. Use the right language, challenge abusive language and, crucially, banter and jokes that might make people feel uncomfortable or marginalised.
- Speak to people in your teams. 35% of LGBTQI people have hidden that they are LGBTQI at work for fear of discrimination, so you are probably working with people who are hiding part of their identity. Give them a voice by actively listening.
- Equally, avoid assumptions. Don’t assume that all LGBTQI colleagues will want to be responsible for championing LGBTQI causes in the workplace.
- Be aware of intersectional minorities – more important than ever against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement and the intended rollback of LGBTQI rights across countries.
- Be aware of pronouns. Be careful not to assume the gender of someone’s partner, and be prepared to ask about pronouns and introduce your own. This might feel unimportant if it’s not an issue for you, but really matters to some people.
- Be visible. Wear a rainbow lanyard, or put a sticker on your laptop. This is about using your privilege to create an inclusive atmosphere, and to send a powerful message to people who might be unsure about whether they can be themselves in the workplace.
Finally, for people who still hold homophobic views, or who think this issue gets too much attention: try to learn. It is okay to change your mind on things, and I promise this will enrich your life. Everyone has a right to be themselves at work, and should expect to be accepted by everyone.
The MoJ is proud to be Stonewall’s 5th most inclusive employer for LGBT+ community in the UK.